Manda's Musings


Youngest was away on a 9-day canoe trip with Boy Scouts. I feel a tangible freedom spending adult time without mind tendrils tuned to possible teenage antics taking place due to absence. Thank you Scouts! Peter and I drove to Chesterfield Gorge with bikes one morning. Peter ferrets out some wonderful Massachusetts spaces that offer grand adventure. A bike trail, or actually, jeep road, sidles the Westfield River through woods and meadow, 6.6 miles.

It’s wonderful being with a kindred spirit. We finished the 6.6 and Peter said, “Stop here or keep going?” Dirt road stretched out as far as we could see. Of course, as soon as we came to the end of the 6.6 I was thinking, “Must ride this out to pavement.” So we did – and then some. Both knew it time to turn around when we reached the Knightville Dam. First major human-made structure, other than iron pipe gates cordoning off the path, we encountered in our sojourn. Our Massachusetts scenic scapes are magnificently diverse. That river valley’s diverse vegetated curves, watery bends and billowy clouds lives deep in my mind’s eye.

Though we missed the gorge’s swimming hole (well – I did – because Peter let me lead) due to my immense concentration on riding at a fast enough speed to avoid bugs hovering in my face – after finishing our ride we did hike back to a place in the river that had a light current and was deep enough to swim in. A bounteous end to a bounteous sojourn.


Words cannot express the depth and breadth of ache I feel hearing the news of the families and children being detained at our border with our neighbor, Mexico. 

I must believe there is much love that surrounds that situation- moments we don’t hear much about on the news – but I roar at the callousness. 

And hearing and reacting to our present administration’s decisions as I do – I am moved to face my own callousness within. 

Because it is there – because I am human.

But may I act on it less and less. 


I heard Joy Harjo for the first time on NPR Wednesday night, reciting her poem, ‘She Had Some Horses.’ While listening I did not know she was of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. And that she is the new poet laureate of our nation. 

She had me heart with her opening stanza.

When I was a child, my heart lived in horses. (Figuratively – that is. In actuality, I felt intimidated by them – unlike my daughter who was boss, no matter their size or temperament.) I was more intrigued, and in love with, the idea of horses than horses themselves. That heart connection lasted well into college – recalling my obsession with the theater piece, ‘Equus’ – though that could also have been due to the naked male actor.

Hearing Harjo read her poem brought my childhood horse sense back – sent me on an amorphous journey, with horses weaving through my life’s story.

She had some horses – figuratively.


Sam and I, with a couple friends, are going Rhode Island, to the beach today. What privilege.

And to think ‘going to the beach’ used to mean walking across my lawn, down stone stairs, jumping off the seawall to our rock. What privilege.

Today I will plunge my head under waves; take in the glory of coolness surrounding me; flip on my back and float, suspended by salt saturated seas; breath deep the ocean air. What privilege.

What privilege, I understood as a child to simply be ‘home’ – like any other kid’s home. I raced waves before they crashed the seawall; donned diving mask and took my homemade spear to (never) pierce a flounder; spied the eel gliding by our rock; tied my dinghy to the spindle and dropped a hand line.

We sold that home space several years ago – well used and – unaffordable in adulthood.

What privilege. Today we’re going to the beach.


Went to the City Winery Monday night with Peter and Sam. Met up with a few high school friends to hear Sona Jobareth – a wonderful musician from The Gambia. She had four other band members – two drummers/percussionists, a bass and a guitar. 

She plays the kora. (Reminds me of my granddaughter – Cora!) She is the first professional female kora player to come from a Griot family – typically the art is passed from father to son – males only. She has broken the mold.

Kobareth, along with others, including high school friend, Todd Hoffman and his wife, Cherie Hoffman, are working to create ‘The Gambia Academy’ – the first cultural center in The Gambia.

Though her music certainly moved me – it was hearing her heart’s devotion to spiritual and cultural development of her home – her family, community, country and music in The Gambia – that struck me the most. To have a cause to live for and foster in such grace.


I am not a gracious Boston sports fan. I remember watching football and hockey with Mom on our 12-inch black and white TV. She’d yell and complain when fights broke out or egregious, violent penalties were made.

I yell and complain whenever a play doesn’t go my way. Doesn’t make for good company or community viewing. My abiding husband is about the only one who tolerates my presence – and that’s probably due to the vow ‘for better and for worse.’

The good news is – I now recognize my behavior as offensive and detracting. The bad news? I’ve had at it for 30 years plus.

My realist sensed the Bruins’ chances of winning the seventh game of the Stanley Cup playoffs were shot when St. Louis scored the first goal. I tuned in late on the radio ride home due to a commitment. I didn’t hear much of their stunning play in the first period. My rabid Boston sports fan professing ‘everything you do from here on out has to go my way or we’re going to lose’ kicked in, and I badgered and berated them to the end. That damned second goal with 8 seconds to go only added fuel to the tirade.

The next morning I heard interviews on 98.5: choked up, spent voices – dejection – devastation – of twenty year olds – twenty year olds, Manda. Even at 42, Charra could be my son from a teenage pregnancy. I recalled Charra playing with a broken jaw. The heartbreak of a Charlestown native who’s life’s goal was to play for the Bruins and had to sit out multiple games due to a concussion. And then I recalled myself – sitting on the couch fuming with frustration. Sitting on the couch. On the couch.

Knowing these young men make millions, my empathy goes only so far. But playing out their heart aching voices against my couch cussing, hard lined, self-consumed banter – I took a knee.


My granddaughter’s third grade class hosted a wonderful event yesterday afternoon. Each student researched a Massachusetts person of interest. Cora’s was Deborah Sampson – a Massachusetts woman who fought in the Revolutionary War.

I kneeled, quietly thrilled, hearing my grandchild school me on the trials and triumphs of Deborah Sampson. For instance, she got shot in the thigh and removed the bullet herself. Don’t try that at home! Cora’s affinity and respect for Ms. Sampson’s spirit, agency and principles surged out as she spoke animatedly of her subject.

I felt especially heartened to hear her force of disbelief that women weren’t allowed be soldiers if they were so moved. 

We are moving folks. May feel slower than turtles at times – but we are moving.


Yesterday I met a little gal who is a distant relative to Emily Dickinson. I didn’t know that when she revealed what she loved best about Ms. Dickinson. She recited, mostly from heart, Dickinson’s poem, “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?”

After hearing her marvelous recitation, I looked up to her tri-fold presentation. At the middle panel’s top left hand corner, a photocopy of Emily Dickinson’s photo was pasted. Right away I saw the resemblence. I pointed it out to my newly acquainted small scholar. She speared her finger out toward a fun fact printed on the bottom of the panel: “I am a distant relative to Emily Dickinson.”

As I re-read Dickinson’s poem this morning – it struck me – her poem, ‘I’m Nobody! Who Are You?’, was ultimately written by one who became quite a ‘Somebody’:

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!


‘Tatterhood the Musical’ is a project I’ve been developing since receiving an Artist-in-Residency Award from the Margret and H.A. Rey Center, where I completed – in 10 days of uninterrupted work, alone, in a beautiful three story home by a river – its first draft. To date, I’ve lost count of drafts. There have been many.

My dad loved musicals. I’m dedicating the piece to him. His enthusiastic layman’s baritone rings in my ears as the king bellows his songs. 

It’s been at least four years since the rough draft. On this, my self-declared final edit before gathering folks for a read-through, I set myself a deadline: finish by Dad’s birthday – June 12th.

Yes! No!

While grinding out ACT II edits, stuff of real life happened – one of those inner upheaval moments that gives one call for great pause. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that happening both informed and insisted on a significant shift for one of Tatterhood the Musical’s main characters. 

No! Yes!

After resigning myself to the inevitable, I sat down once again to page one. Only 60+ pages to go!


Stayed up for the Bruins game last night.

Back in the days of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito. Gerry Cheevers, Pie MacKenzie, Derek Sanderson, Johnny Bucyk and the like, I was a die-hard Bruins fan. When on school nights Mom dismissed me from our 12-inch black and white TV, to bed, I listened under the covers, on my transistor radio. I charted goals scored, assists made, major and minor penalties received – in three ring binders – the whole nine yards. Now I turn them on solely for Stanley Cup Finals.

Serious breach, Manda.

I guiltily admit – I still get riled up – as only a die-hard fan is truly entitled to – but I can’t help it.

And so I roared when the Blue’s guy egregiously tripped our Bruin from behind, setting up a Blues goal that proved to be the game winner. A penalty uncalled and a goal undeserved.

Serious breach.

(Just sayin’ – why isn’t Sunqvist suspended for the same amount of games Grzelcyk is out? Okay – fair weather fan done! )